On the Edge of Discovery: Chester County CDV Photographers

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 Originally Posted April 6, 2012

Unidentified Civil War Officer from a CDV by Eber Woodward, West Chester, PA, 1865.

Who were the photographers who made CDVs (photographic visiting cards) for the people of Chester County during the Civil War?  Some were itinerant staying for a few months, while others established studios in the larger towns and villages. Here is a listing of some of the photographers collectors will find from Chester County.

 Photographer E. R. Frederick had a studio in Penningtonville (which became Atlgen in 1875) between 1864-1866.

 John M. Branson, served both Coatesville and Valley township from 1862-1865.

 Downingtown had S.S. Griffith’s traveling wagon stop to take tintypes and CDVs there in 1862.

 Thomas Lewis made CDVs in Kennett in 1862-1863. While in Kennett Square W. G. Hannum operated a long running studio from 1857 – 1874. He briefly partnered with John Branson during the 1860s.

 Thomas Lissett traveled around New London and southern Chester County in his traveling wagon between 1863 and1865. It was easier for him to travel to his customers in this region of rural crossroad villages.

 Alexander McCormick was the studio in Oxford, operating from 1862 – 1896.

Musician Isaac Renshaw from a CDV by R.F. Channell of Phoenixville.

 The steel town of Phoenixville kept a number of photographers busy as men left for war. Lewis Horning, conducted a studio there in 1862. He was followed by Isaac Clegg in 1863 and M. B. Yarnell in 1863-1864. William West was there briefly in 1864. Ralph F. Channel opened his studio in 1864 and kept his formula for success going into the 1880s.

 Unionville was busy enough to support two photographers, W. G. Barton in 1862 and Robert W. Butler in 1863.

 The town of Waynesburg, which changed its name to Honey Brook in 1876, was a good stop for a number of photographers. D. Haas and Samuel Lucus took portraits there in 1862. Wallace & Craig opened a studio in 1864, which Alexander Wallace continued alone in 1865. 

 Being the county seat, West Chester was the photographic hot spot of the county. Nathan Parker had been in business there since 1856, welcomed the soldiers from Camp Wayne to his studio. When Parker died August 17, 1861, Samuel R. Fisher purchased his studio and continued the business to 1863.

 Another studio in the town at the time was that of Eber Woodward who was established in 1854, mainly as a daguerreotypist and ambrotypist until the CDV came along. Woodward was a major studio through 1867.

There were a few buildings in West Chester that owners fitted up with sky-lights to rent specifically for photographers. One such site was above Worrall’s Book Store at 7 E. Gay Street saw a succession of renters: Duval & West in May of 1864; C. Alfred Garrett until 1865; Shrieves and Battin in November of 1865; and Battin & Finney in 1866.

 A.A. Anderson opened up his “Union Gallery” at 13 W. Gay St. over Thomas Travilla’s Store in 1864. It must have been a preferred spot because C. Alfred Garrett moved in when Anderson moved out in 1866.

 Please note that the streets were renumbered in 1879, so these addresses do not match present day street numbers.

 The building on the southeast corner of High and Market Street, sometimes known as the Darlington Building or Darlington’s Store had space for a photographer’s studio on the top floor. The succession of renters included: Charles Duval who advertised as photographic chemist in 1863; F. McCutcheon in 1864, who used R.T. West and S.R. Fisher as operators; Odiorne & Shrieves in 1865; and J. S. Beecher in 1867 advertised “None so cheap, none so good.”


Advertizement from the Village Record, 1863

One of the most prominent studios in West Chester was that of Thomas W. Taylor. He reopened for business in June of 1863 after serving in Co. E. 124th Regiment of the Pennsylvania Volunteers. During his nine months service Corporal Taylor saw action in Chancellorville and Antietam.  His studio was at in Townsend’s building known as the “Old Stand” on the south side of Gay Street between High and Church Streets.  Taylor was in business there into the 1890s.

 Others who made CDVs in West Chester briefly were Edward Pyle, R. B. Mulford,  R.M.J. Reed and E. Smedley.

 I hope this information may be helpful for collectors who wish to supply a date to CDVs in their collections. If you have any names I don’t have, please let me know. We hope to place a new list of Chester County photographers on the website soon.

 Pamela Powell, Photo Archivist